Kids and Germs: Protecting Your Family

From an interview with
Meredith Atkinson, FNP
McLeod Pediatrics Cheraw

Children are back in school, and that means new schedules, new friends, and new germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children miss an average of three days of school each year due to infections spread by poor hand hygiene. 

You can help keep your children from picking up germs and sharing them at home by practicing good hand washing. Teach them to always wash their hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute for washing and can be kept in their backpack or desk. 

Remember, children learn from your behavior. So practice healthy habits together. Make sure your family gets enough sleep, drinks plenty of water, stays physically active, and follows a healthy diet.

Washing Hands the RIGHT Way

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or an air dryer.

Other Key Places Germs Spread

Recent research from the Clorox® brand found that the clothes kids wore to school came back 28 times germier than the average toilet seat. It’s important to regularly wash laundry, as clothing they wear to school may harbor germs, especially when children sneeze into their elbows. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each material.

What’s more, the study found kids’ backpacks are often the most neglected by parents when it comes to sanitization, and it shows. On average, kids’ backpacks clocked in 31 times germier than the average cell phone. The easiest way to kill germs on a backpack is to empty it and give it a quick spritz with a disinfecting spray. Most bags, like those made of nylon, are safe to spray. If you’re worried about damage to your backpack material, check the care instructions first.

To learn more, speak with a pediatrician near you.